There’s a small habit that I practice, that can turn difficult situations into much better ones — and it won’t surprise you. It’s the habit of gratitude.
This is such a simple habit, and it’s one that we often forget to practice. But when we do, it can transform our entire perspective, and with it our whole life.
Let me give you an example. About 10 years ago, I remember being caught in a rainstorm and being soaked, and also feeling generally stressed about being broke and hating my job and unhappy with my health. I was a bit depressed about it all, actually.
Then I decided to make a mental list of everything I was grateful for, right there in the rain. It was a long list, and while I can’t remember everything on it, some of the things I remember include:
- I’m married to a beautiful, loving, supportive wife.
- I have five wonderful kids (at the time — now I have six).
- I am employed.
- I am relatively healthy (maybe I was overweight, but I didn’t have chronic illness or pain).
- I have loving family (parents, siblings, extended family) who I love dearly.
- I live on a tropical island where the rain is actually refreshing when you’re sweating from the heat (I now live in northern California, but I was on Guam at the time).
- I am alive.
- I can taste delicious food, smell flowers, see art, hear music. What miracles!
- I have friends.
- I can run.
- I can love.
- I can pick mangoes from the huge tree in my yard.
- I can read novels, my dearly beloved novels!
- I am not starving, homeless, destitute, alone, destroyed by a natural disaster.
The list was probably 4-5 times as long, but you get the idea. The things I was taking for granted were now put front and center before me. The things I was feeling bad about didn’t go away, but they were put in perspective. They were blended with more powerful elements of my life into a mix that is ultimately true beauty and love.
Yes, there are bad things in my life, and it’s OK to feel bad about them. But it’s also important to remember the rest of my life, and to remember that even the bad things make life as complex and interesting as it is. Life would be boring without challenges!
The transformation of how I felt about my life, in that moment in the tropical downpouring rain, was really remarkable. All from making a simple list.
Check out the rest of the article at Zen Habits